Tag Archives: Northgate

Pasquerilla Named Bethel Park Superintendent

The Joe Pasquerilla era will soon end at Northgate. The fourth year superintendent was named the next superintendent of the Bethel Park School District at a special board meeting last night.

The coming months will be very important to and very busy for Northgate as the district will look to identify an interim candidate as they begin their search for their next superintendent.

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Northgate to Consider Elementary Realignment

UPDATE: The meeting scheduled for Monday, January 26th will start at 7:00 PM. I had previously posted an incorrect time.

The Northgate School District is investigating the possibility of reorganizing its two elementary schools, so that one building is used for K-3 students while the other would be used to teach students in grades 4-6. This Monday, January 26th, at 7:00 there will be a meeting at the high school to discuss the feasibility of such an idea. I would like to briefly discuss my thoughts on the matter.

First it seems to me that moving to a K-3, 4-6 model makes a lot of educational sense. Some teachers and administrators have noted that having all teachers of a particular grade teaching together in the same building would enable more collaboration and help with curriculum alignment. Some people have also mentioned that such a move could bring greater unity as a district. Another educational benefit would be the possibility of having smaller class sizes due to being able to evenly distribute students in each grade level. I think this is not only the greatest benefit, but for me, it is the reason why the district needs to continue to pursue this option. For the past two years, elementary class sizes of been considerately higher than many would prefer, and in both years, the district made the decision to hire additional elementary school teachers months into the school year. Several students have had to move back and forth between elementary schools, on occasion more than once, so that class sizes could be made somewhat manageable. I feel that it is imperative that we stop moving children back and forth between elementary schools in such fashion.

Some people have also noted some cons to such a move. The biggest one that comes to mind is that some students that walk to school may now have to walk a greater distance. Families with multiple elementary school aged children could have added complexity in getting there kids to school if they attend two different schools. Safety patrols are comprised of fifth and sixth grade students so they would only exist at one school. Also there would likely be some cost in preparing the buildings for such a transition. I think these issues are significantly outweighed by the education benefits previously discussed. I also think many of them can be solved or worked around.

It is possible that there are other benefits\problems that I did not discuss. If you would like learn more or would like to add to the conversation, please consider attending the meeting this Monday. As I have said, it is my belief that reorganizing the schools would be very beneficial. I would take that a step further and would say the district MUST proceed with such a move unless doing so presents a far greater problem that has not yet been discovered. It is imperative that we stop shuffling students between schools and do what is best for all the elementary school students.


2015 NHS Board Reorganization and Meeting Dates

Below are the 2015 committee assignments and meeting dates. Please note that as of this posting this information is correct to the best of my knowledge however, it is possible that this information could change at some point in the future and if so, it may not get updated on this blog.

Meeting Dates:
(note that the Athletic Committee meeting time is different from last year)

meetings2015

Committee Assignments:

committechart2015


Northgate School District: May Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything and so I thought now was a good time to take a few minutes and give an update on what I think are the important issues facing the school district.

Budget

The final budget is due in June. It’s been three years since taxes were increased and it looks like there will be a tax increase this year. While noone wants to increase taxes, it appears to be a necessary evil at this time. If taxes were not increased, then according to the 2014-04-28-General Fund Budget Presentation presented at the budget forum a few weeks ago, the General Fund would be almost wiped out by the end of next school year. That may not be completely accurate as the budget is generally conservative and our expenses will most likely be less than what gets budgeted, but it is still a cause for concern. There are many factors that influence the budget, but the biggest problems continue to be increasing pension costs and insufficient state funding. If the current proposed final budget passes as it stands now, taxes will increase a little over 1 mil. To put it into perspective, if your house is valued at $100,000, your property taxes are likely to increase a little over $100.

Class Size

I feel that class size is an issue, particularly in the elementary schools. Many of us kindergarten parents successfully lobbied for a fifth kindergarten class last year, citing safety and educational concerns with class sizes in the high 20’s. For the 2014-2015 school year, the school board has made the decision to go back to four kindergarten classes, and keep first grade at four classes. This means that next year first grade will see a dramatic increase in class sizes. As of last week, there are 108 students going into first grade, 55 at Bellevue and 53 at Avalon, meaning one can expect class sizes of 28 and 27 at Bellevue and 27 and 26 at Avalon. As I understand it, first grade typically grows in number from the previous year’s kindergarten, so those numbers may grow slightly. I feel that these class sizes are significantly too high, and that first grade should not have some of the largest class sizes in the district. Unfortunately with the budget looking the way it does, I don’t see the board approving adding an additional teacher (unless the parents voice there concerns stronger and louder than last time…and even so it would be tough).

Elementary School Musical Chairs

At the beginning of last year, there were several kindergarten students who lived in Bellevue but were told they needed to attend Avalon (due to class size). Weeks into the school year, those same students where moved back to Bellevue when a kindergarten class was added. Recently, some of the same students were notified that they must attend Avalon next year. Shuffling students back and forth between elementary schools isn’t good for anyone and I feel horrible when I hear parents talk about how this affects their kids. One solution to this problem is to adequately staff the schools so that class sizes aren’t maxed out, but that is not going to be the case for next year’s first grade class. I feel that if we are going to continue to face these challenges for the foreseeable future, then we need to start looking at moving away from two separate elementary schools, and splitting our two elementary buildings where one is for K-2 students and the other is 3-6. This isn’t something that is possible for the 2014-2015 school year, but I think we need to look at getting the ball rolling to make it happen for 2015-2016. There will be challenges with regards to implementation, but I feel the benefits far outweigh costs. I’m not going into details at the moment because there aren’t any. This is an idea that has been tossed around from time to time, and I think it is something we need to move on.

May 2014 Primary Election

The biggest issues we face (in my opinion) all stem from our budget. Pension costs and lack of state funding are hurting Northgate just as they are hurting every other district in Pennsylvania. At the Stand Up For Education event that I attended, the state legislators (that showed up) acknowledged these issues but all agreed that nothing would happen in the near future to help remedy them. We need people in office that care about education and have a good understanding of the issues. Being an election year, we have an opportunity to put someone in office that will fight to solve issues that are threatening to destroy our schools. To put it bluntly, if you care about education then VOTE FOR TOM MICHALOW for state representative. Not only is he a teacher in the district but he has actively served his community and he has a deep understanding of the issues affecting our schools.


Concerned About Your Property Taxes?

Did that get your attention? Good. Well I have some bad news but I also have some good news. Before I explain how you can influence your property taxes (the good news), let me first give some general background information that may help.

Note: While in this post I speak about the Northgate School District and residents of Avalon and Bellevue, this post can apply to all school districts and neighborhoods in Pennsylvania.

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Board Breakdown

Below is a list of Northgate School Board members, their email addresses, and the committees to which they belong. I was told it has been past practice to have new board members sit on the Finance committee for 6 months before moving to their actual committee. Therefore, Finance members Bryan Johnston and Amy Joy Robinson will switch with Student Affairs members Jennifer McWilliams and Lisa Saylor half way through the year. This list does not include ad-hoc committees that may be formed throughout the year on an as-needed basis, for purposes such as contract negotiations or superintendent review.

Mr. Daniel O’Keefe
President
dokeefe@northgate.k12.pa.us
Committees: PSBA Liason, Legislative

Dr. Timothy Makatura
Vice President
makat@northgate.k12.pa.us
Committees: Building and Grounds, Finance, Food Service, Personnel, Transportation

Mr. Gary Paladin
Treasurer
palag@northgate.k12.pa.us
Committees: Finance, Beattie, Communications, Intergovernmental

Mrs. Brigitte Jackson
bjackson@northgate.k12.pa.us
Committees: Building and Grounds, Athletic, Chamber of Commerce Rep, Intergovernmental

Mr. Bryan Johnston
bryanpjohnston@gmail.com
Committees: Finance, Food Service, Transportation, Technology

Mrs. Jennifer McWilliams
jmcwilliams@northgate.k12.pa.us
Committees: Student Affairs, Athletic, Personnel, Transportation

Mrs. Amy Joy Robinson
arobinson@northgate.k12.pa.us
Committees: Finance, Athletic, Communications, Technology

Mrs. Lisa Saylor
lsaylor@northgate.k12.pa.us
Committees: Student Affairs, Beattie, Fine Arts, Communications

Dr. Shannon Smithey
ssmithey@northgate.k12.pa.us
Committees: Student Affairs, Food Service, Personnel


Big Changes to the Northgate School Board

The unofficial results for the 2013 general election are in: http://www.alleghenycounty.us/elect/201311gen/el45.htm

Barring any drastic changes to the total vote counts, there will be four new members on Northgate School Board:

  • Lisa Saylor
  • Amy Joy Robinson
  • Jennifer McWIlliams
  • Bryan Johnston

Hopefully these new members will place education as the top priority in the district and put in the necessary effort to bring a positive change to the district and community.

I plan to continue to use this blog to help bring information to the community and give my perspective on issues as a school board member.